In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of “DIY” divorces carried out in England and Wales. If you go online, there are numerous different websites that offer to assist people with this, often at a very appealing price. Many people wonder what need there is for them to engage the services of a family solicitor when they can pay a fraction of the cost online to do it themselves.
Before deciding to conduct a DIY divorce there are a number of things worth thinking about. It is very difficult to take out the emotion when dealing with your own divorce. It is difficult to stand back from the facts and look at them objectively. Lawyers will give dispassionate advice and the importance of this should not be underestimated.
The divorce process is commonly divided into three parts, and these should be considered. These parts are:-
(a) the process of obtaining a divorce. This is the process of ending the legal relationship between the parties.
(b) disputes over property (how the matrimonial assets are to be divided up and known as ancillary relief)
(c) disputes about children (where the parents cannot agree issues such as where the children should live or when they should see the other parent)
The latter two aspects of a divorce are issues which most people would be unwise to try and tackle themselves. It may well be that in a simple case, a person may be able to handle a divorce so far as obtaining decree absolute but it becomes a very different matter if there are issues about assets or children. These are both areas where a prudent person would be wise to take professional advice. For instance, obtaining a pension sharing order is not something that a lay person can usually do without legal assistance.
If you take no legal advice at all, financial pitfalls can result. You are entitled to agree financial arrangements between yourselves, but you may come to regret these later down the line. Or you may agree to a settlement only to discover, sometime later, that you were “cheated” of what you were legally entitled to. For these reasons, legal advice is recommended and we have often dealt with these clients and ended up “picking up the pieces”. Even if there are no financial assets to be dealt with upon divorce, without legal advice, people are unaware of the benefits of a clean break. Many couples are reluctant to spend money on finalising their finances on divorce. This is often the case when a couple has limited or no assets whatsoever. There is also a common misconception that once a couple are divorced, that is the end of any ties they have to each other. Despite warning clients that both parties will continue to have the right to make a financial claim against each other until the court has approved a financial settlement, many couples simply choose to ignore the advice,considering a Consent Order to be an unnecessary expense. The lesson to be learnt however is that there is no time-limit on when the application can be made. It therefore is important that, regardless of a party’s income or assets at the time of a divorce, they finalise the finances also.
Assuming that someone still wants to conduct the divorce themselves, it is much simpler if they are talking about just the divorce process which culminates in decree absolute. All the same, it is important to realise that the law is a technical area of expertise just like any other learned skill and it is easy to make mistakes.
Before deciding to embark on a DIY divorce you should think carefully about these issues. A DIY divorce is possible and feasible in some cases but it is rarely quite as simple as you think if have had no experience of dealing with divorce before.